Kraut Catastrophe: A Tale of Woe Part I

by Daisy

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As you all know, everything I do always turns out perfectly.

What’s that choking sound?

Ah, you’ve read our flops.

Well, as long as we’re letting it all hang out, you might as well know what happened when I, inspired by Ivory’s fantabulous experiences making naturally fermented pickles, decided to devote my entire crop of purple cabbage to a crock of kraut.


Well, let’s see . . .

First let’s look at the cabbage in question.  I was so in love with it that I took a thousand pictures, from every angle and in different lights and atmospheric conditions.

Look at me getting all artistic up in here with my close-up.  Can you smell my infatuation?  It was pungent.  I drowned a little in those rain droplets.

I hand-picked cabbage worms.  I watered religiously.  Mostly I mooned and swooned over them, and fretted they would never form heads.

But they did, finally.  I worried over when to harvest.

But I did, finally.  Then I wondered what to do with them (there were eight).  A couple went to coleslaw.  But the majority I decided to turn into kraut.  This next part, let me just say, I don’t believe in omens.  I think that’s hogwash.

But, if I did, the first event in my kraut-making foray would go under the heading of A Bad Sign.

One very hot summer day, Ivory and I hit the town.  And by hit the town I mean we visited several plant nurseries and feed stores.  We were very nearly out of control–we even went to the same feed store TWICE.  I should mention, earlier that morning she had handed over to me her prize Picklemeister into which she had placed a ziplock bag of frozen naturally fermented pickle juice to act as a inoculant for my kraut.  The Picklemeister sat in the car and accompanied us on our nursery rampage, uncomplainingly, or so I thought.

Later that day, however, once I brought the Picklemeister home and started to make kraut, I discovered Picklemeister, apparently, wasn’t as forgiving as I had thought over being left in a hot car for several hours.  The combined heat and moisture from the condensation on the melted pickle juice bag had sealed the glass second lid (a bowl-shaped contraption that keeps the veggies pressed down below the surface of the fermenting liquid) fast to the jar opening.

It was going nowhere, clamped down like a pit bull on a stick.

Not normal stuck.  Not bang it real good and it’ll eventually come loose stuck.  This was call-a-physicist-in-Boulder-for-advice-stuck.  No kidding.

He is my uncle, I’ll admit that, but I was concerned.  Ivory has a close personal relationship with Picklemeister.  Our friendship could survive breaking Picklemeister.  Just.  But I didn’t want to test it.  Plus, I’d already chopped Purple Cabbage, and as I may have suggested, I felt close to Purple Cabbage and it wasn’t going to last forever like that.

After careful consideration, my uncle described in physicist-appropriate detail what I was going to have to put Picklemeister through to unstick the lid:

Place PM in boiling water for an interval.  Quickly ice the neck of the opening.  Then, confidently and evenly turn it over and WHACK it on a firm surface.

I was so worried I was going to break the thing.  I made ice, carefully laid out everything I would need, and boiled the water.  I went over the steps in my mind.

It was the WHACK I worried about the most.  What if it was more of a CRACK!??

I went through the steps up the the final one.  Nervous as a cat, I flipped that thing over and gave it a good thwump on a towel.  Well?  I was too afraid to check.  Had I heard a pop, or was that a clink?

Wonder of wonders, thank you uncle, it worked!

Ivory and I are still on speaking terms.  Picklemeister has gone on to father many fine kosher dills.  It wasn’t going to go as well for me and my kraut, however.

Stay tuned to hear the rest of the story.  It ain’t pretty.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Pie September 26, 2011 at 11:57 am

You need pickle juice to make sauerkraut? I could swear my aunt always used just cabbage and salt layered up.

Looking forward to the rest of the story!

Tomato Lady September 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Lisa Pie–Apparently you don’t have to use it, but it is supposed to give everything a boost to get started.

Catmint September 27, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Well, according to Nourishing Traditions you could have done the cabbage with salt and just added about 3 Tablespoons of whey (either purchased or drained from raw milk or use a Greek style yogurt drained or other cultured yogurt drained) per half gallon.

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